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Tallahassee Cancer Doctor Urges Regular Screenings Despite COVID Fears And Restrictions

Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare's Cancer Center
Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare's Cancer Center

Oncologist Dr. Tod Morris says fewer people are getting potentially life-saving preventive care.

A Tallahassee cancer doctor worries people are neglecting life-saving preventive care out of coronavirus fears.

Tallahassee Memorial Health oncologist Dr. Tod Morris said he's watching media coverage of COVID-stressed hospitals with a lot of concern.

"There are regions of the country that are currently in situations where there are no ICU beds available," he said. "And based on the latest communications that are coming from Tallahassee Memorial Health leadership, we are not currently in a situation - considered a 'divert' situation - so we have access to care, hospitalization and emergency rooms. We have access. We do!"

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

But Morris noted the volume of patients seeking routine treatments, including preventive procedures such as cancer screenings, is way down.

"Patients are probably a little hesitant to embed themselves in the health care realm because of the COVID fear," he said. "That's a reasonable thing to think about. If you don't need to be transiting outside of the home and engaged in non-essential activities, it's probably the better way to go."

At the same time, Morris acknowledged that the coronavirus safety protocols now in place can make health care visits more cumbersome than they used to be.

"I think we're working from our end, from the primary health standpoint, to minimize any roadblocks that patients may be perceiving to make sure that they have access to top-quality, world class health care, including screening for malignancy," he said.

But regardless of these factors, Morris insisted no one should hesitate to seek care.

"It shouldn't be leading to such significant delays that it should change the ultimate staging and presentation for the patient. Persistence is key in these situations," he said. "If an individual is up for appropriate time frame for screening, I recommend that they pursue that aggressively and get in, even with an appointment with their physician, or through telehealth to express their concern that it's time for standard screening."

Simply because, as Morris pointed out, in so many situations, especially cancer, early detection is critical.

"Screening programs in general are designed to provide diagnosis at an earlier stage," he explained. "And the reason that we want to diagnose at an earlier stage is that outcomes are better, meaning progression-free survival and overall survival statistics are better when a cancer is caught early."

A fact that persists no matter what's going on with the pandemic.

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